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Plenty of newbish questions about headphones and things related. (SINAD, soundstage, and gear recommendations.)


New Member
Feb 22, 2019

I have similar motherboard that amirm has measured to have SINAD of 83. (Z390 Aorus Elite - ALC1220-VB) For 200-300€ one could raise SINAD to somewhere over 100, which to my understanding is near perfect. (Topping D10 and JDS Labs Atom)

What is audible difference in SINAD? Can one hear e.g., difference of 5? How big difference does moving from ~83 to >100 make?


I have also been reading headphone reviews on rtings.com. As they state, there is no real definition nor commonly agreed way to measure soundstage. However, when you look their listing for the best sound score, none of the cheaper headphones have a great soundstage. E.g., Audio-Technica ATH-M50x competes evenly with Sennheiser HD 800 S nearly all other aspects except soundstage. To my understanding, all the top headphones on the listing by soundstage are generally considered to be the absolute high class. Same does not apply when it comes to the listing by sound quality.

To add to my confusion, Yesterday I went out to listen different headphones. The place had one dac-amp combo (Sennheiser HDVD 800) that one could use to listen the headphones located near to it. I tested all the Sennheiser headphones nearby and while most of them did no sound that special to me the HD 800's or HD 800 S's did (I don't know witch they were). Thing that makes these HD 800s different from the rest fo the Sennheisers by looking the rtings reviews is the soundstage.

I also listened the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. Unfortunately they were among the headphones too far from the dac-amp combo, so I had to connect them to my phone (Huawei Honor 7) directly, so there is no real comparison here. However, I tested plenty of other headphones that were directly connected to my phone. My impression of the ATH-M50x's was that first few seconds they sounded really clean and nice, but not nice in the emotional way. I can't describe it, but I did not like them after the initial few seconds. Probably they would sound way different with a better signal. Anyway, it further increased my interest towards meaningfulness of the soundstage.

Is this soundstage as major factor when it comes to the sound that I think it is?

What gear to buy / how to improve my setup?

Spending around same amount of money for each option, lets say 300-400€, which is more likely to result better experienced sound quality: getting a DAC-amp combo (200-300€) and headphones or getting higher quality headphones to go with the motherboard audio (ALC1220-VB, SINAD of ~83)?

If the soundstage is a major factor in sound quality and rtings.com is doing good job rating headphones by soundstage, are there any well balanced alternatives in the "budget" section for the AKG K702's?
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